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   Chapter 12 Wildwood The Society Book 1

Wildwood: The Society Book 1 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 56478

Updated: 2018-03-13 11:35


Chapter 12

Ivy put the rest of the groceries away as she waited for the cab to arrive. She felt a bit like a dry riverbed, only she could see the leaky damn holding back the waters. All she had to do was hold the flood of emotions back long enough to set things in motion, then she could let the river run. Russell and Eric looked unsure what to do with themselves, but at Ivy's direction they moved to refold the blankets and replace them in the trunk she used as a coffee table. She knew she would have to haul them out to wash later, but for now it gave them something to do until they left. She wasn't ready to answer questions.

When the cab arrived, the three of them piled in, leaving her apartment mostly a mess. "Ivy, " Russell said tentatively as the cab sped them towards the address she had given them. "I know you are upset."

"I will be upset later, " she told him. "There are just a few things I need to do before I fall apart." He nodded and they drove the rest of the way in silence. The cab let them out in a residential neighborhood that was filled with homes built in the nineteen forties. There was a four foot strip of space between each house and what passed for yards were located in the back of the houses, the front doors being only a few steps away from the sidewalk.

Both men looked at the house where Ivy had asked the cab driver to let them out. They were startled when Ivy walked away from the house. She ignored the looks they exchanged with each other as they moved to catch up with her. She led them down the street and around the corner. The sound of their footsteps behind her was somewhat comforting. Although she had spent the last seventeen years relying primarily on herself, it felt good to not be alone. There was however, one drawback. Russell and Eric didn't know Nikos. She was hoping that wouldn't be a problem.

"It would be better if you save any non-immediate questions until later, " she told them as she stopped walking. "Nikos…that is Nick, does not do well with strangers." She climbed the three stairs to the front door of a nondescript looking house and knocked. They heard shuffling footsteps approaching and a moment later the door was cracked opened by an elderly woman who looked frail enough to disintegrate to dust with the slightest puff of air. She peered through the slim opening. Seeing Ivy, she smiled broadly and opened the door wide.

"So good to see you, " she said pulling Ivy into a big hug, the strength of which defied her frail appearance. "It is too long since you have visited, too long." She let Ivy go and looked at Russell and Eric. "And these must be the two men my grandson says you were bringing. It is always good to have nice strong men about. But it is cold outside. Come in, come in. I will get you some tea."

The woman led them inside and into a warm and somewhat cluttered kitchen. Ivy could feel the reaction waiting to take over and knew if she sat down for tea she would start to fall apart. "Irina, " Ivy said. "I appreciate the tea but…, "

"But you are rushed today, " the woman said nodding her understanding. She sighed. "This is what is wrong with the world today. All this rushing. Very well, Nicky is waiting for you in his basement lair. But you must promise me to come and visit properly sometime soon. Perhaps you well let me know how you came by two such nice looking young men."

"It's a promise, " Ivy told her with a smile. Irina sent them towards the basement door. Russell and Eric followed her as she opened the door and descended the flight of steps. Unlike the rest of the house which looked worn and dated, the basement looked as though it belonged on the upper floors of a well-funded tech development company. The new white sheet rock walls had been covered with thick white plastic. Fans had been installed to remove any trace of dust from the air and the environmental controls were top notch. Everywhere they eye turned, there were electronic bits, some silent and waiting, others whirring in a frenzy of unknown computations. Tables were lined with spare parts and projects in motion.

Against one long desk set into the far wall were several computer terminals, each with multiple monitors. There was only one chair however, and that was occupied by Nikos. As they entered his domain, Nikos turned from the monitor, looking pretty much the same as he always had. His black hair needed the trim that she was certain Irina would eventually bully him into getting. His black eyes were sharp and his olive toned skin somewhat pallid from spending the bulk of his time in a windowless room. The lines radiating from the corners of his eyes, the light grayer strands mixed in with the black hair and the slightly larger paunch on his otherwise lanky frame were the only indications that time had passed at all since their first meeting.

Nikos glanced at the two men and then dismissed them as unimportant. She and Nikos had known each other long enough for him to trust she would not bring anyone to him who would threaten him. "It sounded urgent, " he said by way of greeting. Small talk had never been his strong suit. Ivy tugged off her hat and stuffed it in her pocket. She began un buttoning her coat.

"Someone is hunting my family, " she told him. He gave a sharp nod. He had long ago learned many of the details of her hidden life. "The name on the driver's license was Walter Garrett, State of Delaware, " she began. Ivy gave him the rest of the information from the card. "He sent the information to someone else." Ivy relayed the phone number.

As she shrugged off her coat, Nikos spun back towards his computers. He began a search on one and then rolled to another terminal to begin a search for the phone number. Ivy hung up her coat and pushed up her sleeves.

"Got an image in case the id's a fake?" he asked over his shoulder.

"Yes, " she told him. Ivy walked to a cabinet and opened the doors. Inside was a stack of thin wooden planks. They were the size of a sheet of normal printer paper and only as thick as three sheets of wood veneer glued together. Ivy took two of the sheets from the stack and closed the cabinet door.

As she took the two sheets to the edge of one of the tables she spared a glance for Russell and Eric. They were looking around curiously, but seemed content to wait. Ivy wondered if they picked up on the shielding she had installed throughout the house. She had gone to great lengths to make certain it was as hidden as possible and although she was thankful it had never been tested, she wondered how hidden it actually was.

Deciding she would ask later, Ivy placed her hand over the center of one of the boards she had taken from the stack Nikos kept for her. She held her hand mere millimeters from the surface and thought of the man sitting in her apartment tied to a chair. She fixed his image in her mind, excluding every other thought and concentrating on his face.

She felt the heat spill to her hands, blazing just beneath the skin of her fingertips. With a word, she released it, burning the image of the man into the surface of the wood. She set the image to the side and pulled the other plank forward. She repeated the process, this time however burning the image of David Lindgren into the wood. A thought had occurred to her on the way over and she wanted to see if it had any merit before she went further.

Satisfied, she took both images to Nikos. "This is the man who came to my house with a gun today and who sent information to someone else about my family, " she told him, handing him the first image. She held out the second. "This is a man who goes by the name David Lindgren. He came to my house yesterday. His attack on me failed, but there have been others he was more successful with. It is possible they were hired by the same person or persons."

Nikos nodded and took the image from her. He took both to his scanner and scanned them into the machine. He programmed his facial recognition software to begin a search and rolled to another terminal. Ivy knew he would scan all available records to ferret out the information she wanted. "Follow the money is always a good first step, " Nikos said. "We see who is paying the bills, we find what they want."

"David uses the Central Bank on twenty-fifth, " Russell said, his face was carefully blank. Ivy wondered if he was trying not to spook Nikos or if he was just reserving judgment until he knew exactly what she was planning. Nikos looked at him for a second and then nodded. His fingers blurred as he typed the information into the system.

"Got anything else for me?" he asked.

"No, " Ivy replied.

"I'll get you everything I can find as soon as possible." He told her.

"Thanks, " she told him. "Once you have found what you can, delete everything from the system and make sure your search can't be found."

He looked at her and nodded once. She knew he would have erased any trace of his scans no matter what she said. The fact that she reminded him to do so would make certain he was extra careful in erasing his tracks. He was always a ghost when he went searching, but this time he knew to be a ghost who didn't go bump in the night.

She picked up her coat and slipped it back on, leaving Nikos to his world of bits and bytes. As she buttoned it, she turned to the stairs. Russell and Eric followed Ivy back upstairs. Irina waved them out of the door, making Ivy promise again to stop by for tea at a later date before closing the door behind them.

"Well, that was certainly different, " Russell said as Ivy pulled on her hat and gloves. He looked vaguely amused and Ivy had to admit, her interactions with Nikos always seemed more clandestine then they actually were. She liked to blame his lack of small talk. "What now, oh mysterious one?"

Ivy smiled, feeling infinitely better now that Nikos had begun looking into things. She wouldn't be able to relax completely until she knew her family was safe, but knowing she was doing something helped. It especially helped her nerves to know that what she was doing in no way involved the Council. "Now we call a cab and pay a visit to a local furniture store, " she told him.

"Replacing your love seat?" he asked.

"Actually I'm thinking of picking up two sleeper sofas, " she replied. "They can box off the living room area when they aren't needed and spread out when they need to be opened. The space can handle it. The love seat was always too small for the space, but I couldn't find anything larger to match my needs at the time."

"But what about checking for trackers?" Russell asked with a half-smile.

"I doubt I'll be having many visitors in the apartment until this is settled." She replied with a shrug. "At least not ones I don't trust."

"Because your family will be staying with you, " Russell asked, lifting an eyebrow questioningly.

"You know someplace with better shielding?" she replied as she dialed the number for the cab company and walked towards the address she planned to give them as a pickup location.

"Aside from the Oasis, no, " Russell replied. He stopped dead in his tracks as a thought occurred to him. "That's what you did for Petra isn't it?" She smiled and gave the dispatch a pickup location.

"I could think of one place with better shields, " Eric said softly when she had ended her call and they continued walking.

Ivy and Russell both looked at him. "Your friend Nikos had very strong shields in place. Especially considering he isn't a mage of any sort."

"I thought I sensed something, but wasn't sure, " Russell replied.

"I tried to hide them." Ivy said.

"You did a good job, " Eric said admiringly. "I didn't sense anything from the outside and while I felt a little something upstairs, I wasn't sure it was a shield until we were in the basement. Even then it was still hard to tell. It felt almost…residual, as though a mage had once lived there and moved out, leaving a trace behind."

"But you still sensed them, " Ivy said wondering what she could do to strengthen them. "I'll have to work on that."

"Barely sensed them, " Eric replied.

"And he is trained to detect them, " Russell added. "He is one of the best actually. It is somewhat annoying."

"You train people to detect shields?" she asked.

"Magic, " Eric replied. "Of any kind. Some mages like to leave booby traps. Some wolves are more sensitive to magic than others."

"He's the sensitive sort, " Russell told her with a wink. He ducked the playful punch his brother sent his way.

"I see, " Ivy replied wondering what exactly Eric did in his daily life that required him to look for magical booby traps. The cab pulled up and they piled in, heading off to the nearest furniture store. All talk of shields, break-ins and impending family visits were tabled as Ivy wandered around the show room, chose two couches in neutral colors she thought would serve well and arranged for them to be delivered the following day. Another cab ride took them back to Ivy's apartment building. Instead of going upstairs however, Ivy diverted into the basement.

Each tenant was allotted one small storage space in the basement and while Ivy kept a separate storage unit across town for the bulk of her items, she found it convenient to store certain things here. Here, she kept extra carpet tiles for when she needed to replace ones that needed to be destroyed to remove trackers, extra potions and assorted other paraphernalia that might look odd in her everyday life. Luckily, Walter or whoever he was, had not thought to check the basement. Ivy unlocked the door and hauled out her extra carpet tiles and several extra spray bottles of lemon scented tracker spray.

While his primary goal seemed to steal anything that had a magical signature as well as the information about her family, along the way doing god only knew what to her, she couldn't rule out the possibility of trackers being present. Since he had gone through her entire apartment, she needed to search her entire apartment.

As neither Russell nor Eric looked as though they were leaving anytime soon, she decided to put them to work. Once they helped her haul everything back upstairs, the three of them began spraying down any surface that looked as though it could remotely hold a tracker.

Three hours later, they had come up with twenty three trackers and used the box cutter to remove them from whatever surface they were on. As she thought, she had lost most of the carpet tiles in the front room and would need to use all of her extra tiles to have any form of floorcovering in that space. She had also lost two pillows, a set of curtains, one of her kitchen chairs and several more assorted bits out of the bedroom rug.

In his quest for magic and information, Garrett had also broken both of her Wash and Dry jars, and her bathroom mirror, as well as her couch and reading chair. In fairness though, she was certain the furniture was broken when his search was interrupted. In addition, her shower curtain had a long gash through it and would need to be replaced.

"This stuff is amazing, " Eric said eyeing the spray bottle jealously as she frowned at the wanton destruction around her.

"Who would arm a non-mage and send them to grab random items infused with magic without knowing the purpose?" She mentally wondered. She shook off the thought and smiled at Eric.

"Go ahead and take one of the bottles, " Ivy told him. "My supply is low enough that I'm going to have to make more soon. I'll also make up some of the removal packets for you so you two don't track anything in with you when you visit."

"You know Michael took a couple of the packets, right?" Russell pointed out as they gathered up all of the trackers so Ivy could burn them. He and Eric took turns ferrying the broken things to the dumpster, making sure she was never alone. When they were both needed to transport the broken loveseat, Russell made certain she threw the deadbolt behind her, opening it only when they returned.

"I saw, " Ivy said. "I also saw that Garrett didn't mark which one was 'wash' and which was 'dry' when they were taken from the jars. If he tries to use them in the wrong order things could get messy. Hopefully Michael will have enough sense to simply dissect them."

"How messy?" he asked, eyes narrowed.

"There is the off chance that he will need both a new washer and dryer and that anything in either machine won't be salvageable if he uses them in the wrong order." She shrugged. "It'd be stupid to use them without knowing what's in them first. I'd dissect them rather than use them."

Eric snorted and Russell pulled out his phone. She got the impression neither of them thought much of Michael's good sense. As Ivy began to burn the trackers, Russell call

of the attacker were gone, both magical and mundane. The attacks are varied and scattered around the country, so the police haven't linked them in any way. The council is shadowing the police investigation with one of their own, using methods the cops can't or aren't allowed to use. Nothing has turned up."

"Did they find out what David's necklace did?" Ivy asked, her blood running cold. She really didn't want any details explaining the violated before death. She could conjure up her own nightmares on that topic. She took another sip of wine and realized her hand was shaking as the liquid sloshed in the glass. She set it carefully back onto the table.

"Yeah, " Russell said, grimacing in distaste. "It destroys all evidence of magic and any DNA evidence that might have been left behind. Everything, from hair follicles to fingerprints and everything between, gone in an instant, everything wiped clean. All of the items the mage had that would have had any magical residue were missing."

"And the ginger scented mage?" she asked remembering how her items were gathered.

"Taken in for questioning." Russell told her.

"The shifters who were attacked?" she asked. Russell looked to Eric.

"I was helping to look into a couple of them, " Eric said. "Some were young males who had the strength to grow up to become alphas in their packs." Seeing Ivy frown he smiled. "Leaders, they would have been trained to be leaders." He explained. His smile fell. "The others killed were women who were the mates of powerful alphas and who were, at the time of their deaths, pregnant."

"Presumably with children who would grow up to be alphas as well." She guessed. Both men nodded. Ivy closed her eyes and swallowed hard. "The best and strongest, " she said. She opened her eyes and took a long pull from her wine glass. "Do you know the names of the mages killed? And where they were? Locations could help." she asked.

"A couple of them, " Russell asked. "I'll have to check on the locations." He named the few he remembered. When Ivy went white he looked at her concern shining in his eyes. The names he listed were the on the list of trusted trainers Albert had given her. Their names were the ones marked out.

"It's connected." She said, letting go of the slim hope that she was seeing patterns that didn't exist. "About five years ago, a system of testing was developed for young mages. They are tested for power levels at the age of five and placed with a trainer to learn control before they are sent to school."

"Sounds reasonable, " Russell said slowly.

"I think I remember hearing something about that, " Eric added. "Not the details of course, that's a clan thing, but someone mentioned it."

"The power levels run from one to twelve, one being the lowest and twelve the highest, " she continued not surprised Eric had heard of it if he was working in magical detection. It seemed to fit. "Albert gave me the charts for the five years that they have been testing the children. Any child with a power level above a nine died before reaching the age of six." She looked at Russell. "He sent me a file with their death certificates in it. All of them died in automotive accidents."

"The best and the strongest, " Russell repeated.

"Shit, " Eric said.

"He had a plan, " Ivy continued.

"To stop the deaths?" Russell asked.

"To temporarily safeguard the children until he could figure out who was behind the deaths, " She corrected.

"And the plan was?" Eric asked.

"To create a haven away from prying eyes where the children and trusted trainers could be sent to be trained, not only in control, but in how to make themselves appear to be a lower power level when they were officially tested in front of the Council, even if the mages privately knew their strength." She took a deep breath. "He listed five possible people to establish and operate this haven, " She continued. "Want to guess their names?"

"Would they all have the last name of Chambers?" Russell guessed, smiling wryly.

"Got it in one, " Ivy said. "He also had listed trainers who might be able to train the stronger children. Several of the names were marked out."

"The others David attacked, " Eric said.

"Whoever killed them, or ordered them to be killed, didn't have to know they were on Albert's list, " Ivy continued with the thought she had started forming earlier. "To train a strong child, you have to be strong, just as to shield a large property, you need to be strong. As the testing system was only put into place five years ago, all of us are too old to have been assigned a rating, but I'm guessing we'd all be on the higher end of the scale. That's why our grandmother trained us to hide a lot of our skills. I'm guessing alphas would have to be on the stronger side as well if they are to lead?"

"Yeah, " Eric replied. He looked pale and worried.

"That's why Hamilton was pushing for the establishment of your operation, " Russell said. "It isn't just about a steady source of supplies. It's about safety, hiding at risk children."

"I think it's also why my family restrictions were lifted, " Ivy told him. "We're stronger together."

"Which is why you were separated in the first place, " Russell said.

"Was it?" Ivy said. "They never told us why we were split."

"I asked Hackett after I met you and knew you were my mate in case it was something I needed to be concerned about, " Russell said. "He told me that both the Fae and the vamps were uncomfortable with you five being together without the supervision of your grandmother."

"Supervision?" Ivy asked.

Russell shrugged. "That's all he told me. He did say that none of you had actually done anything, which is why he voted to allow your family to stay together."

"I figured the Seers were the deciding vote, " Ivy said bitterly. "Just as they were now when we are to be reunited." The thought sent a wave of anger through her.

"Seems very calculating, " Russell said, frowning.

"Never did like the Seers, " Eric added. "They never explain anything, just look at you mysteriously and make pronouncements." He shook his head as if to clear it. "So do the five of you have some super-secret Wonder Twin like powers when you are together?"

"Not exactly, " Ivy told him pushing aside her anger for the moment. "We complement each other really well though. I'm fire, Rose is air, Danny is water and both Alex and Max are earth. Even if we were all weak, uniting all four elements would make us stronger."

"So you could do what exactly?" Russell asked.

"It's not exactly what, but how, I suppose, " Ivy said. "Think about shields for example. Mine is clearly based on fire magic. Should you wish to break it, you would employ a breaker built with water magic, like pouring water on a campfire. Pour enough water and the fire goes out. If I were a water mage then a breaker charged with a fire mage's power would be employed. If you hit water with enough fire, it evaporates. You understand the basic concept?"

Both men nodded. "Okay, " Ivy continued. "Well the shield we had around our old house was layered. Alex's earth, Danny's water, Rose's air, my fire and topped again with Max's earth, like a layer cake. The two earth's fold over the others, like pouring chocolate ganache over a torte. Anyone who looked at it would just see chocolate. Or in this case earth magic."

"So they would employ a breaker charged with air magic?" Russell guessed. "Since air is opposite earth."

"Exactly, " Ivy said, pleased that he had followed. "Air is opposite earth the way fire is opposite water. The most complex breakers anyone has been able to create only hold two types of magic. They can hold air and water, earth and fire, fire and air or water and earth. Trying to put more in causes the breaker to cancel itself out."

"But why doesn't the shield cancel itself out?" Eric asked.

"Because of the separated layers, " Ivy explained. "Each layer is separated from its opposite by another layer."

"Making the shield unbreakable, " Russell concluded.

"Almost unbreakable, " Ivy corrected. "Should anyone with a strength greater than our combined strength force it, there is always the possibility they would make it through." She smiled. "Which is why we always take care to put in secondary defenses, just in case."

"Paranoid, " Russell said with a smile while Eric shook his head.

"Grandmother and her two brothers, our uncles or great uncles I suppose, were always defense minded. I think it had something to do with the amount of unexplained automotive accidents. After Uncle Johnathan and Uncle Roger died, in a car wreck, grandmother became even more insistent in making certain we knew how to protect ourselves. That was of course before she died in an automotive accident."

Ivy reached for the bottle of wine and poured herself a second glass. "Probably why I don't own a car, " she told them dryly. She took a sip of wine to wash the bitter taste of her words off her tongue and put the glass down. "Is everyone finished eating?" she asked. At their assent, she started wrapping up what little remained to stow away in the fridge.

"I can't believe how much the two of you actually ate, " she said realizing that her half full orange beef and containers of rice were actually the bulk of their left overs.

With no other real furniture in the front room now that the couch and chair were gone, once the table was wiped off they sat back in the three remaining kitchen chairs. Ivy made a mental note to stop by the thrift store so that there would at least be enough chairs for everyone to sit at the table when they arrived.

"That's why Hackett was so pleased that you agreed to set up the larger scale herb… farm… supply… thing, " Russell said, unsure what to actually call the project.

"I'm mentally calling it the dispensary if that helps, " Ivy told him. "Why was he so pleased?"

"Well, right after you accepted the Council charge, " he began.

"As if refusing was an option?" Ivy asked.

"After you accepted their charge, " he continued, ignoring her comment. "You accepted my claim."

"Making you pack, " Eric said nodding his understanding. "If you had a place with almost unbreakable shields and people were hunting children of the pack …, " he continued.

"Then I would be a safe place for them to stay that wouldn't look out of place, " Ivy concluded. "Just your family coming for a visit." She sighed and shook her head. "So Hamilton is keeping the fact that someone is hunting mages away from the council, mostly because Albert thinks someone on the Council is in on it. Hackett is, I'm guessing, doing the same thing with the wolf deaths?"

"Yeah, " Russell said. "Wait, Albert thinks one of the Council members is in on this?"

"He does, based on the timing. I can show you the documents he gave me if you'd like. Garett didn't touch the flash drives. It does seem to be the most logical conclusion. As does the fact that whatever or whoever is taking out the strongest mages is also taking out the strongest wolves."

"There is only one reason I can see for doing that, " Eric said.

Russell nodded. "Someone is planning to go to war."

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